Happy birthday Google+ … My Tribute Essay
MY FIRST AUDIENCE
If you don't count my point and shoot photography then the first audience I had as a photographer was a small handful of friends who lived in my apartment complex back in 2005.
I was a student and so were they. A small few of them got to see my pictures straight on the computer and commented on them… they loved them and made me feel like I was a photo-genius. Obviously they were kind to a beginner like myself and even more-so their expectations were undoubtedly very low. It's a very real possibility to them they were some of the better pictures they had seen with the new foray into the DSLR world of photography. But to be fair to myself, I look back at those pictures and I'm pretty proud of what the beginner in me was able to accomplish. Pretty decent shooting skills but sucky editing skills.
It was those friends that commented on my photography and told me that it was good that motivated me to buy a bigger camera… to feel like I could photograph a portrait shoot… that I could photograph a wedding and they would be happy with my results.
Their appreciation is a big part of what motivated me to spend hundreds of hours learning (by myself) how to operate a brand new DSLR camera and invest (time and money) into some software to edit them.
MY AUDIENCE GREW
As I began to photograph weddings my work was seen by hundreds and then thousands of people. Because hundreds of people went to weddings and thousands of people saw the wedding announcements with my work featured.
I'm sure plenty of people back then weren't impressed by my skills (being a beginner) but luckily (for me) I didn't have any of them approach me and tell me I sucked or I was a failure or that I was far less talented than many other photographers at that time (even if it was true)
I continued to surround myself with people that liked what I did and told me which pictures they liked.
I had people investing money into my skill and their happy comments of praise continued to motivate me to continue and they let me know I was on the right track.
I listened to the silence … Just as much as I listened to the praise.
I was figuring out what a good picture was by seeing my client's reactions to the pictures. I figured out which ones they liked the most and with the silence I could see which ones weren't working out as well.
And that went beyond the actual pictures…
I steadily learned how to interact with clients and their families and how to handle groups (weddings)
I knew what to say and do to put a smile on their faces and instill confidence.
BLOG and WEBSITE
Starting a blog (i think back in 2007) was a big step in my photography.
It expanded that audience to people online that weren't just my clients.
I began to internalize my pictures more because I was writing about them.
And when I edited and posted a picture I started to look at them differently…
Before I would look at a picture and think like my client or my friends… but now I was thinking as a third party that didn't know the client and wouldn't just be excited to see their friend in a pretty wedding dress.
And then I put up a website saying these are my best pictures… aka… my portfolio and they better be good enough to attract the attention of random clients.
Well in 2008 I went full-time (as a non-student with no other part time jobs) and did about 30 something weddings.
I started using facebook back in 2005… which was about when it started. I was an early adopter who got on almost before any of my friends. But it grew pretty quickly. It was obviously nothing like it is today. Only those at my college could join and it wasn't until a while later that they even let non-college students join in.
But when it got popular and people started using it I would share links to galleries and more importantly (for me) blog posts. That meant more people could consistently be notified and show of my work.
This changed my mindset about how I viewed the pictures. I wanted them even better and I worked toward that.
Facebook did show pictures but it sucked at it (it's not perfect even still) so I rejected putting my work onto facebook for a long time.
But then I realized… sometimes you need to go to where the people are and not just beat you're head against the wall to make them come to you.
So I gave in and started posting lots of pictures to FB
Then soon I was getting lots of people seeing them… hundreds of people saw my albums of pictures.
It wasn't too many years and I hit 1000 friends on FB, that was a big deal for me… it was pretty un-common amongst friends.
Again not only did that expansion help bring in more clients it continually changed the way I viewed my work and analyzed it. It made me better
Obviously doing all those photoshoots helped a lot as well.
I think it was in 2008 that I jumped onto twitter… and none of my friends were using it so I went looking around for other people to connect with.
I found other photographers and a couple of them did photowalks in Utah
Because of this influence on twitter I went to one the 4th of July and make bonds with a small handful of photographers in Utah.
My connections grew and grew and in just a few months I had already made 1000 friends on this service when it took me a couple years on FB
But these were totally different people. They weren't my college friends and church friends like on FB.
They were my peers … they were also photographers and that was a new world for me.
Now when I posted pictures to my blog or a gallery and shared a link on Twitter I realized that my work would be viewed by dozens and maybe hundreds of PHOTOGRAPHERS and that really changed my mind-set and my ambitions on how I worked on the pictures.
I can really look back to 2008 and specially that second half of the year to a big step in my photography.
Maybe it was no surprise that 2009 became a huge year for me, I started traveling out of state more often and was getting calls left and right for weddings.
I started training other photographers (some that would go on to become successful and amazingly talented photographers)
I did 50 weddings that year amongst many other things as well.
It's kinda funny that twitter had such an impact on my photography because of the people it connected me with and yet I rarely use twitter anymore.
But I'm still very good friends with dozens of those photograpehrs. It even connected me with photographers from out of state which was very different than just the Utah group.
My audience of viewers grew and expanded and that was just as important as my audience of clients… clients gave me the experiences and the viewers helped to push me, to give me perspectives upon which I could internalize my own work and from time to time gave feedback… though honestly rarely did I get feedback in the method you think it's normally given. But I internalized what was said and still the silence taught as much as the verbal excitement. I knew certain pictures caught more attention than others.
Google Plus came right about the perfect time for me… as far as social media goes.
I was getting bored of Twitter and Facebook seemed very stagnant for me. I was working hard on posting great stuff and I felt like my friends weren't really responsive to it like I felt they could have been.
I jumped onto Google plus the moment I saw a news announcement because I felt like I'd need to capture the Jarvie username and when I saw they didn't use UserNames I still stayed because it seemed like a great solid technology and a great name to back it up.
Communities were starting to form and one of the most vibrant communities that formed was the photo-community.
But it took some building. And I'd like to think that from the very start I was there helping to build that community.
There were actually a bunch of us photographers that would post great informative posts, lots of great pictures and we would HangOut almost non-stop.
Soon within less than a month… maybe like a week or two I had already amassed 1000 followers on GooglePlus… something that took years on FB and many months on Twitter had taken a fraction of the time on GooglePlus
There were dozens(hundreds) of us that worked to build up a great foundation of a community in GooglePlus. Great posts, great pictures and letting eachother know who the other members of the community were was all important and those people were all kind of rewarded with lots of followers.
The amount of followers isn't just a sign of good photography but can be that you share great thoughts, you do great projects or that you bring people together and build community.
Later in the year I was going on trips with these people and making very real and very solid friendships with some of the coolest photographers around from around the country.
Yes I have ended up doing photoshoots and being hired to travel around the world to photograph weddings for GooglePlus users…
But it's more than that… I now realize that when I post a picture it can be seen by thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of people… and that some of them are also full-time photographers. Many of them are some of the best photographers in the world right now and so just like all these other times my work is really being analyzed and I'm pushing myself more and more to be better.
OTHER KEYS FOR ME
Honestly I NEVER had critical feedback as my learning process as a photographer. It just wasn't and isn't part of my system of getting better, but feedback is very much part of what I do.
Yes experience is a factor to getting better.
Technology has made things much better. I can make better pictures today with my 36mp D800 with the pristine 85 1.4 lens than I could with the 6mp D70 and my 18-70 kit lens. No doubt about it. It has a bigger screen, it's sharper, it's colors are better… heck my 30" computer screen and the screeming fast computer is much better than my 15" monitor back in the day.
I can certainly work Lightroom 4 much better now than I was able to run Photoshop Elements back in the day or even Photoshop itself.
THE VALUE OF AUDIENCE
I'm working hard to lay down the story of how audience has impacted my photography so much.
If you're not seeing it then I guess you should just trust…
Trust that I mean what I say when it really does seem to change the way you go about your work when you know a lot of people (and the right type of people) are watching.
Yes I'm sure I am the type of person to always push myself to get better regardless of the circumstances but I don't live in a vacuum and it happened like it did and Audience was a big part.
-Be around people that believe in you and give you encouragement. It helps motivate, it pushes you, it is helpful if you feel the feelings of giving up.
Maybe you like being berated about your work and trashed… I guess you guys need to figure out your own method. Maybe someone else will write a post about how they became an amazing photographer because no one liked their work, no one followed them and everyone was constantly critical of their work. (I'm showing the other side.)
-Push yourself to always get better and constantly put up work… even when you're in a downtime when it seems like a lot less people are caring.
-Plus1 (or Like) pictures… even that little bit says so much. That type of feedback helps me get better.
-Put in the time. Time taking pictures, sorting pictures, editing pictures and (don't forget this one) sharing the pictures.
Lots of Time
My interns from last year can attest to just how much time I've spent on googleplus
People I spent a lot of time with from the beginning of GooglePlus like and even and can attest to how many hours I (we all spent) creating friendships on GooglePlus hangouts.
A BY PRODUCT
Perhaps I did it for the friendships and to pass the time… but one of the byproducts was I got better as a photographer… I got more viewed and that changed things for me (mentally and opportunities)… I pushed myself more and it was another big leap in my photography.
I'm really excited about where my photography is now and of course will continue to push myself to get better.
GOAL: I always want to be twice as good next year as I am this year.
(So far so good since 2005)
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